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December 28, 2008CHAPEL HILL - Winning big has been the name of North Carolina's game all season. Now the top-ranked Tar Heels have a school record to show for it.
With its 97-75 win against Rutgers, Carolina has won its first 12 games this season by double digits, breaking the record of 11 consecutive double-digit victories set by the 1992-93 national championship team.
While the '92-93 squad built their streak late in the season, this bunch of Tar Heels hasn't waited long to start blowing teams out.
"It says a lot about this team, how great we can be potentially," said Danny Green, who finished with 18 points and was one of four Tar Heels in double figures in scoring. "But it doesn't mean anything unless we use it. We have to stay focused."
Tyler Hansbrough led the Tar Heels with 26 points and hit a couple more milestones in a season sure to be full of them.
He grabbed his 1,000th career rebound with 10 minutes to go in the game, making him one of seven Tar Heels in history to rack up four-figure rebounds. Hansbrough is now tied for sixth in UNC rebounding history with Brad Daugherty.
And after drawing a foul while hitting a jump shot with four minutes to go, Hansbrough hit his 800th career free throw. He is the seventh player in NCAA history to reach that mark.
"There's a crazy record for everything," Hansbrough said.
Despite Hansbrough's statistical achievements, the biggest cheers of the night came when UNC senior forward Marcus Ginyard got into the game, his first action of the season.
Ginyard had been sidelined since having surgery on Oct. 8 to repair a stress fracture in his left foot.
"It was fun to have him out there," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I'd say he's about 80 percent, but I wanted to get him a few minutes and see how he reacts."
When Ginyard went to the scorer's table with a little more than seven minutes to go in the first half, the Smith Center crowd got as loud as it had been all game.
And when Ginyard finally got into the game at the six-minute mark, he received a standing ovation and a chant of his name.
"I'm grateful to have fans that were excited about my return," Ginyard said.
In the first half, it looked like it wasn't going to be as easy for the Tar Heels to get to blowout status as it has been in other games.
Rutgers shot better than 50 percent and got a lot of jump shots from Mike Rosario, who led the Scarlet Knights (9-4) with 26 points.
It wasn't until late in the first half that the Heels systematically started building a bigger lead to go to the locker room with a 52-38 advantage before going on to lead by as many as 22 in the second half.
"In some ways it was an unusual game," Williams said. "I felt like we weren't doing a very good job defensively, and they were making every shot. I don't usually watch the scoreboard, but every time I looked up we were up 14, 16, 18, or something like that."
Ginyard scored his first points of the season when he rebounded a William Graves air ball and put in the lay-up for his first points of the season.
Of course, the long layoff did have its effect on him.
Despite riding a stationary bike to get loose before entering the game, Ginyard's lack of conditioning had him visibly sucking wind at the free-throw line with seven minutes to go in the game.
And his second free throw of that trip to the line? An air ball that sent the end of the Carolina bench into a fit of giggles.
"Just adding stuff to the blooper reel for me," Ginyard said. "I was just happy to be out there. What can you do?"
With Ginyard back, what the Tar Heels are likely to do is continue winning big.